Preventative Winter Maintenance
This is a good time of year to think about our tackle, especially rods and reels. There are a few things we could do now that might save us some frustration and expense later on and it will get us ready for the spring fishing – that is hopefully just around the corner.
Take a careful look at your rods & reels for anything that requires factory attention. This is a good time to send tackle in for repair. The warranty departments are often busy in prime fishing season, but can usually get repairs turned around quicker during the slower winter months.
Examine the tip top and other guides for wear. Pay very close attention to the tip top as wear usually shows up on this guide from the line traveling in and out of the rod. The tiniest uneven spot or slight crack in the finish of the guide will ruin fly lines. Often your fly shop will have a rod repair person who can replace guides. If not you should contact the manufacturer about replacement.
The ferrule should not show any wear either. However, if the rod has been fished with loose ferrules it will eventually work into a broken ferrule. Telltale signs of this damage will be slight cracks in the female ferrule. If you see anything that looks suspicious, show it to someone at your local fly shop.
We use Simple Green on the cork rod handles. Wet the cork, spray with Simple Green, wait a minute or two, and wash off with a soft brush under clean running water. Let the rod air dry overnight to make sure all moisture is gone before putting it back in the tube for storage.
Pledge Wipes work well on the blank to restore a nice clean finish.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for reel lube. Depending on the drag system, your reel may not require and lube.
Look for corrosion on any screw heads, but especially on the reel foot. If you find anything that looks like it could be corrosion or lead to it, clean the area carefully with WD40 using a Q-tip or soft toothbrush (but not your wife's).
We use Pledge wipes on the outside of the reels to wipe away any dirt and to add a nice clean finish.
Look carefully at the line guard where the line comes off the reel to make sure it is not worn. Even the smallest grove made from the line wearing against the guard can make a sharp edge that can ruin the line.
Turn off all drags. If the drag is left on it can weaken over time.
Fly Lines -
All fly lines should be checked for wear and then put away clean for the winter. Use the manufacturer's suggested line cleaner. We prefer RIO's AgentX Line Dressing. Modern fly lines should never be cleaned with WD40 or Mucilin. Our lines today have sophisticated coatings which require sophisticated line cleaners.
To clean, pull as much line off the reel as you usually cast. Lay it in loose large coils on the floor. (If you have a pet cat, put him in another room.) With a clean paper towel put a squeeze of cleaner in the towel and pull the line through it working toward the leader. When you get to the end, fold the towel to a dry spot and pull the line back through. Wind it back on the reel.
Be watchful of cracks and rough spots in the line. If during the fishing season the line came in contact with Deet (di-ethyl-toluamide) from insect repellents, the line will appear as dry and cracked. Unfortunately, it will continue to deteriorate and will need to be replaced. A burr or crack in the rod tip or guide will also ruin your fly line. The leader or tippet can cut through the line if it gets tangled. This usually happens when a frustrated angler pulls on the mono and it cuts into the soft coating on the line. Modern lines are expensive and care should be taken to help them last as long as possible.
Before fishing in the spring replace your tippet material and leaders. Never store these items in the light. Keep them in your vest, desk drawer, or gear bag. Ultraviolet light will cause the mono to weaken and you'll loose knot strength. Always start with fresh leaders on your fly lines and fresh spools in your vest.
By taking time now to look over our equipment, we can save time later in costly repairs, replacements, or fish lost.